Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I go to the boulangerie around the corner to pick up a baguette and a pain aux raisin, a lovely little pastry that will ultimately kill me. I’ve been off ice cream and sweets for 2 months now and once a week I a get a pain aux raisin. Today there are none.

“There are no pain aux raisins” I think she tells me
I have that panicked look that people get when they realize that they didn’t buy enough booze and the stores are closed- ok, maybe this was just me. I motion to the back, maybe, like shoe stores, they keep the main supply back there. They don’t.

"C’est Triste" I say as I pay for my baguette. “It is sad”
She laughs, not because its funny, but because I always say “C’est triste’ if something is not good. If something is good I say “C’est bon". That is the extent to which I can express my feelings in French. With my limited language skills there are no grey areas for me in Paris- if something is not good then it is sad, end of story. There is no lukewarm, there is no comfortable middle ground if it isn’t sad its good.

When she picks through the basket of baguettes to find the best one I respond with “C’est bon” and give her a knowing smile. If the bread is still warm, I feel it and smell it- “C’est Bon” I say again almost lustfully. She smiles not because she appreciates it but because she thinks I’m an idiot. C’est triste

My brother, who lives in Brussels, stayed with me for a couple of days. We go to the café around the corner, next to the boulangerie.
“He is your brother?,” the waiter says in French while shaking hands. He brings us out a plate of complimentary hors-d’oeuvres. “C’est bon” I exclaim because it does not fill me with sadness. My brother, who speaks flawless French, looks at me and shakes his head.
“It’s a crime that you still can’t speak French.”
“C’est triste” I agree because it is not good.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Check out this blog . Neighbors in my little corner of the midwest have quit their jobs and taken their two daughters on a year long odyssey of the world. The midwest is having a tough time keeping its citizens contained.

Friday, August 15, 2008

There is a crowd of people gathered around a small section of the circular pond in the Tuileries. They are snapping picture after digital picture. Murmurs arise from the crowd- I make my way through to see the celebrity. I will not be denied. Who is it, Britney, Lindsey? It’s no one, just two ducks standing on the edge of the concrete embankment looking for treats. It’s hard to not try to capture every moment of ones vacation, but people, we need to try.

I’ve brought my book with me, which is good because all the bookstores are closed for the Feast of the Assumption. Everything is closed. I went to Catholic school for 6 years and I have no clue what the Feast of the Assumption is but what I do know is that everything is closed and the only diversion in Paris are two ducks

It seems that the Germans are slowly replacing the Italians as tourists here. I don’t know if there is a travel pattern but if I were a hunter I would say that German Season has begun. Dark hair and tan bodies are being replaced with blondes and sunburns, incessant loud banter for low guttural sounds. A beautiful blonde German girl sits in the chair next to mine and when she spoke to her friend it reminded me of the sound our 1968 VW Bus made when we tried to start it in February. The German tourists have that wistful, ‘what might have been’ look. They snap out of it long enough to photograph the ducks.

If you think Paris is slow in August, you would be right, but imagine Paris in August during a 3 day weekend- I’m half expecting tumble weeds to roll down Boulevard de Sebastopol The “assumption” being you can’t do anything except sit by a pond with a book and generalize about entire populations. The trinket shops on Rivoli are open. They know what their clientele want: ashtrays, key chains, scarves, lighters, t-shirts with either the Eiffel Tower or the ubiquitous Chat Noir. I swear, put that black cat on anything and it will sell. I don’t know what the plan is for the new Iran policy but if they put a black cat on the front cover people will buy into it.

Where are all the Parisians in August? They aren’t all on the southern coast or holed up in the family’s country homes. I suspect that those that aren’t out of town are hiding in their attics so no one knows they didn’t go anywhere- their windows are blacked out, food is scarce.

Scene: Small room, dark, window shades drawn. Marie sits at the kitchen table preparing cabbage, again. Jean Claude enters smoking a cigarette.

Marie: Where did you get cigarettes? I thought you were out.
Jean Claude: I snuck out late last night, no one saw me.
Marie: Mon Dieu we will be discovered!

Me, I’m enjoying the sun and reading a bad book about London by Bill Bryson. Someone has been kind enough to write up their opinion of the book on the inside cover- the penciled review is two pages and it isn’t flattering
“A vocabulary and style beneath that of a rapper- his vulgarity is appalling.”
The vulgarity doesn’t bother me just the fact that the book did reasonably well and was probably better suited as a …well a blog.

People are still photographing the ducks, when the ducks stick their head in the water and wiggle their little duck butts you can hear a collective “awwww” and CLICK.

Paris- open some store, we are dying out here.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Who knows what you will find when you rip down an old Metro wall.

I was at a French friend's apartment for a party. My New Zealand friend and I began bragging about our petanque prowess. We mentioned having beaten two Frenchmen at their own game- big mistake. The gauntlet was thrown and it was snatched up by several of the French partygoers.

It was Westside Story for the 21st century and there was even a girl named Maria (Marie actually but work with me). It was Sharks Vs Jets but without the queer ballet dancing. New Zealand got his ire up and I had to hold him back singing.

“Play it cool boy, real cool”
“Keep coolly-cool boooooy”

The rumble was to take place after the dance at Place Dauphine on the Ile de la Cite.

Ile de la Cite,
You lovely island…
Island of expats with visas
Always the tourists are going
Always the petanke balls are rolling.

New Zealand and I walked down the middle of the street, snapping our fingers. We would have danced but the petanke balls are heavy and we promised to bring the water so we were pretty weighed down

When you’re a Jet
You’re a Jet all the way
From your first cochanette
To your last petanke play

The rumble didn’t go as planned; we played poorly. As we got further and further behind I began to slowly slip into a New Zealand accent to protect America from this shame. Finally, we were put out of our misery and the French triumped. They beat us fair and square although we did accuse them of cheating because that how we roll.

The sun had set and we and everyone drifted home. I gently wept as I walked slowly across Pont Neuf.

Tonight, tonight,
Our asses were kicked tonight
The French took their revenge, tonight
Tonight, tonight.
New Zealand was disgraced tonight
Team Kiwi played like the All Blacks tonight

Thursday, August 07, 2008

I'm not certain why blogger deleted all the comments on the last post or why it won't let new comments be added. Blogger is a fickle mistress.

Monday, August 04, 2008

I’m on the train from Paris to Amsterdam. Is there anything better in this world than a large comfortable seat on a train in first class? I’m new enough to train travel to delight in it completely. My head is against a pillow, turned toward the window. I’m watching the world go by: Brussels, Antwerp, and Rotterdam. Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde is playing on my iPod: Visions of Johanna, I Want You and Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands. Life is good, unless, of course, if you despise Bob Dylan then it would be a personal hell.

I am taken with the differing modes of Amsterdam travel- I tried to capture a few of them. My camera is having trouble focusing, much like its owner, but I’m including them anyway because Karyn and Erin were kind enough to ask.

...and of course

This picture of my niece and I wandering the streets of Montmartre is one of my favorites. She came to visit this spring and was bitten by the Paris bug. I suspect we have a future expat on our hands.